Benewah official's district in doubt

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Bud McCall has been a Benewah County commissioner for 34 years, and he has never had to campaign very hard to win. He has been that popular.

This time, his challenger, Republican Thomas Howard, is challenging not just McCall's re-election, but publicly questioning McCall's eligibility to again represent District 3.

Howard cites Idaho code, which says, a candidate "shall have resided ... in the district which he represents for a period of 90 days next preceding the primary election."

Howard said McCall - a member of the Democratic Party - lives primarily in St. Maries, which puts him outside the district he serves. (McCall also owns a home in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.)

McCall, however, said he lives part of his time in a trailer home in Fernwood, at 111 Isaacson, in District 3. That home is a few blocks from his shop, just off Highway 3, where he said he spends about 12 hours each day.

He said, "I spend most of my time here in Fernwood," where he was reached by phone Wednesday.

He added, "My wife says I spend all my time here."

He's had the place in Fernwood for five decades, he said. It's a place his late father owned originally.

"I have a lot of property around here," McCall said.

Confusing matters, the declaration of candidacy form signed by McCall says his address is: "Railroad Avenue, in Fernwood."

While there might have been a Railroad Avenue in Fernwood somewhere in the community's history, there isn't one now, said Howard.

Benewah County deputy clerk Lynn Ragan said McCall has been registered as a candidate on Railroad Avenue, in Fernwood, since 1971.

When asked why he was allowed to file with no specific address, she said, "There were a lot of people that back in the day would register at some place like Sixth and B Street."

That's an example of how it was back then, she said, but the clerk's office has been working to get candidates to provide updated addresses.

Ragan said County Clerk Michelle McDaniel has the authority to decide whether or not McCall's Fernwood trailer will be enough to place him in District 3 as a qualified candidate.

Howard said, "This is the purest case of election fraud, knowing that you don't qualify but continue to run."

Howard, 56, said he has lived in Fernwood for 13 years.

Doug Payne, the Benewah County prosecutor, said it's too late for McCall to withdraw from the race. That deadline passed.

If McCall wins, Howard can ask a District Court judge to rule on the question of McCall's status as a resident of District 3. Howard said he won't challenge if McCall wins big.

A judge would have to settle on a definition of "resided" within the context of a county commissioner race and Idaho code.

Payne pointed to the definition of "residence" in Idaho statutes for elections.

When determining the "primary place of abode," the factors to be considered include: Business pursuits, employment, income sources, location of property, motor vehicle registration, and where an individual takes their Idaho homeowner's exemption.

Payne added, "All the indicators lean toward McCall being a resident of the third district. The only thing that leans against him is the amount of time spent at his home in St. Maries."

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